End of Mindstorms?



I built this thing in a way that can be replicated almost without soldering: http://homepage.mac.com/sigfpe/Robotics/stirfry.html (The motor controller was built from a kit but can be bought complete.) The only soldering required is connecting the tags on the motor to some wire but once you've done that they can be reused for other projects. The body is made from scrap acrylic sheet (bought for $1/lb) and the hardest part of the construction was drilling holes for screws, something I think a kid could to without power tools. Cutting the acrylic is just a matter of scoring and snapping it. The rest of the connections are just breadboard type connections and a bit of glue. And the microcontroller board cost about $30. Programming it was non-trivial but the construction was something any reasonably adpet kid could have done. To be honest I built it faster than any Mindstorms robot I have built. -- Torque
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
In other words, nothing even close to Mindstorms. ;)
DLC
:> When I say reasonable, what I mean is some robotic system :> which has a similar flexibility and learning curve as Mindstorms and :> *no* soldering whatsoever...
: I built this thing in a way that can be replicated almost without soldering: : http://homepage.mac.com/sigfpe/Robotics/stirfry.html : (The motor controller was built from a kit but can be bought complete.) : The only soldering required is connecting the tags on the motor to some : wire but once you've done that they can be reused for other projects. : The body is made from scrap acrylic sheet (bought for $1/lb) and the : hardest part of the construction was drilling holes for screws, something : I think a kid could to without power tools. Cutting the acrylic is just a : matter of scoring and snapping it. The rest of the connections are just : breadboard type connections and a bit of glue. And the microcontroller : board cost about $30. Programming it was non-trivial but the construction : was something any reasonably adpet kid could have done. To be honest I : built it faster than any Mindstorms robot I have built. : -- : Torque
--
============================================================================
* Dennis Clark snipped-for-privacy@frii.com www.techtoystoday.com *
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I've been thinking this for a long time now. I'm 30 and still buy Lego kits (not just technics stuff either), but I have bought very few in the last 2-3 years. Just cost too much.
I bought a MegaBloks space shittle kit on sale at Kmart for $35 (only $50 normally). It had over 2000 pieces, was over 2 feet long and had an electronic command module that would playback NASA communications. The module had 4 sensors so that it could detect which of the payloads you had sitting in the cargo bay and plays back different sounds depending on whats in it. It even came with batteries.
Now, in Legos defense, I have to say that their molding process is much better than MegaBloks resulting in much more accurate parts. But Lego would have been charging like $130-$150 for a kit like this if not more and the better quality parts are not worth near that much price difference. And to be honest, the quality of MegaBloks blocks do not seem to affect the quality of the overall kit. I wonder if MegaBloks will start producing something comparable to Legos technics stuff. The quality of their parts would have a bigger impact in technics type parts I would think.
-C http://hossweb.com
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Hoss wrote:

IMO, this is one thing in LEGO's favor that will help them keep their market, though I also think for 80% of the buyers of LEGO kits, the mold fit isn't critical. It is for the serious LEGO builder, though.
LEGO uses ABS plastic, which is denser and heavier, and keeps its dimensional shape better upon cooling. MEGA BLOKS uses polystyrene, common in the plastic kits industry. The sizing of the parts isn't quite as accurate Styrene is also more sensitive to cold flow (creep), which can mean that blocks may get "permanently" stuck together over time.
On the other hand, for what I usually use blocks for (to build robot bases), the slight imperfections in sizing is trivial. I don't mind applying a dab of glue to keep things together. (I'm no purist!) A small dab of hot melt glue fixes the blocks to one another, but will still allow them to be separated if needed.
-- Gordon Author: Constructing Robot Bases, Robot Builder's Sourcebook, Robot Builder's Bonanza
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
    --Agreed. That, and they never offered improvements to the basic line and they *never* publicized or advertized it in any form that I can find. What did they expect?
--
"Steamboat Ed" Haas : "The Faceless Conglomerate
Hacking the Trailing Edge! : you can trust...
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Gordon McComb wrote:

[snip]
All:
According to the news story below:
<http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040108/ap_on_bi_ge/denmark_lego_1
The relevant quote from the article is below:
It [the Lego Company] also developed popular CD-ROM games and its lauded Mindstorms series, high-tech robots that are made of building blocks but can be controlled by personal computers.
As a result, sales rose but profits stagnated because of the higher cost of producing the new products.
The company now plans to stop making the electronics and movie tie-in products and return to its core mission: producing colored plastic building blocks for children.
If the article is correct, the entire MindStorms product line is dead and gone.
We should probably shed a few tears for the MindStorms product line and move on. There are plenty of exciting new robotic products coming to market that will make building robots easier and have more functionality; we should support those products.
I will miss the complete out of the box experience that MindStorms provided, but that just means that there is is a void there waiting to be filled by some inventive person/company.
-Wayne
P.S. To contact me directly, send E-mal to Wayne -at- Gramlich -Dot- Net; the snipped-for-privacy@PacBell.Net is a SPAM trap.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Can anyone recommend another products like 'Lego Mindstorms'?
I mean an educational toy for children under age 14.
A system so that a child, with no electrical experience, can build a robot with no soldering.
A system that a child can use to build different types of robots with different functions.
A system with a graphical programming language, with 'drag and drop', with an I/R link so it doesn't even have to be plugged in to be programmed.
'Lego Mindstorms' isn't everything for everybody but is there any other product that can do this?
I don't defend the company, especially if they choose to drop this product, but what else is there?
Jay
---------------------------------------------------------------------------- "I'm pullin' for you; we're all in this together", Red Green ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
The Parallax BOE bot comes the closest at present. There isn't anything to replace Mindstorms at this time. We'll have to wait and see if someone fills in the void or not. The trick is not to offend Legos if you build a Legos replacement. You may have to pay licensing or royalty fees to Legos. Otherwise someone has to build up a whole new system from scratch. That will take a while. Also it is expensive, so it would take someone big to do it. Humm.....sounds like just the thing for Microsoft to use to get into Robotics. "Bot-Win" or "Win-Bot" just the thing to standardize robotics for everyone. Plus Intel has that new chip they want everyone to start using too. Maybe someone from Microsoft will read this discussion thread.
I am still skeptical of Linux based robots, the only real robots using Linux that I have seen so far were all "static" displays. Come on guys, at least you could have the robot do something for the crowd, even if it only goes to and fro a for little while.

product,
--
--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
It would be a shame to lose the LEGO Mindstorms. Everyone complains that it is too expensive. Compared to what? Where can you get a robot kit that requires no soldering, has a graphical (or not if you use NQC) programming IDE, has hundreds, if not thousands of optional ways to build it, and just about everyone can understand how it works, finally, that costs less than $200? I've seen plenty of other student robot kits and products, not a single one comes in at less than $500. Mindstorms was as cheap as you can get. Sure I can design a robot for $15. But can a 10 year old build it? I taught a class on robotics to 16 kids from 11 to 16 years old using AVR 2313 board that I designed, Mark III chassis, and Bascom AVR. It was tough, but they all got through it. I could have done more with Mindstorms, there is a limit on what you can start with. Also, plenty of folks designed even more sensors for the Mindstorms that gave it compasses, IR proximity detection, heat, pressure and sound detection... Pretty damned impressive. It is easy to knock the expense of the LEGO product, but quality and innovation does NOT come for free. Should they give their product away for the joy of working on the designs? The only thing I see from MegaBlocks is cheap parts and lackluster designs. I usually gaze in wonder at what the LEGO engineers come up with. The "get it cheap" mentality is driving our (USA) economy into the toilet as folks strive to buy cheaper and cheaper junk, eventually _someone_ is going to demand quality again, aren't they?
Done with soapbox, IMO regardless, DLC
--
============================================================================
* Dennis Clark snipped-for-privacy@frii.com www.techtoystoday.com *
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dennis Clark wrote:

<rest snipped>
I can't speak for the others, but to me, it's not a question of what you get for the money, which is indeed spectacular, but that the RIS package costs $200. They could double the content and charge $300, and it would still be "too expensive." It's not what you get that always matters, but simply how much it costs.
Could they, for example, have put out a $129 "starter package" that included just the RCX, tower, and two motors? They might then have offered truly useful enhancement packages (not the silly Robosports or Mars explorer packages, at $50 each) with more parts, switch sensors, light sensors, and so on. And not just from Shop-at-Home, but local retailers.
It *is* hard to match a Mercedes SL500 considering everything you get. But not everyone wants to pay $90K for a car. So Mercedes offers cheaper models with a different selection of features. Couldn't LEGO have done something like this with the Mindstorms?
What they *did* do was come out with products that didn't leverage off one another. True, the Mini-scout could be programmed from an RCX using flashing light, but LEGO made this information hard to come by. The Scout could be programmed using the RCX tower, but except for a beta SDK LEGO once offered, there was hardly any note of this. -- Gordon Author: Constructing Robot Bases, Robot Builder's Sourcebook, Robot Builder's Bonanza
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Hi Gorden,
I think what we have here is a Half-Full person (Dennis) and a Half-Empty person. (You) You seem to be concentrating on the negative aspects of Lego Mindstorms while Dennis is seeing its positive side.
The Lego Company may have their corporate head up their ass, but I still find Lego Mindstorms system FANTASTIC. Fantastic for what I see it being designed for, children. Adults can use it, just as adults, me included, can have fun playing with their Original Lego products but it's for kids, for beginners.
As far as cost , if it's so overpriced then why isn't there any competition? Apple Computers screwed up in the marketing of their product and IBM took them to the cleaners. IBM screwed up with their marketing of the PC and the clones took over. Why hasn't somebody made cheaper / better version of the Mindstorms?
Let me ask again, what else is there? Where is the competition?
Jay
---------------------------------------------------------------------------- "I'm pullin' for you; we're all in this together", Red Green ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
happyhobit wrote:

Define "competition." Exactly like Mindstorms=0. Some other robot platform=lots. Seeing how Mindstorms sales have dropped off (they peaked in 2001), this either means Mindstorms reached saturation, or other offerings eventually took over the space Mindstorms once occupied. Or both.
I'm not being negative about Mindstorms, but an observer looking at what might have been. I pointed out that $200 is a lot of money for many people, regardless of what you get for it. You read other messages in these threads were people complain Mindstorms was expensive. It was; they didn't say it wasn't a good *value*. Two different concepts here.
You might wonder if LEGO could have provided a lower cost entry-level product that could have been scaled up to the full RIS kit. They didn't do it this way. Instead they offered all sorts of cheaper products that were only marginally upgradable. Even after several iterations of the RCX, even after seeing the phenomenal interest by more advanced users, they didn't provide a simple port on the thing for expanding it. That would have added maybe $2. Yet they might have even been able to charge $20 more for the RIS, and provided an upgrade path to keep users going.
*IF* Mindstorms goes away, and assuming the toy market comes back to life, we'll probably see a directly similar competitor to Mindstorms. From whom I don't know. Until then, whoever comes out with the product can study the market and determine how to do it better.
-- Gordon Author: Constructing Robot Bases, Robot Builder's Sourcebook, Robot Builder's Bonanza
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I feel that that they never provided a way for people to expand it. You had three motor outputs and three sensor I/O's and that was it. The kid as a rank beginner, quickly outgrows it, and loses interest. What else can they do with it? After you build a few robots (that you can with what you got), what is there left to do? Thermometer? ah heck I don't have a temperature sensor. And I can't buy one either. Oooohhh I can build a third arm like thing, ah heck I need a third motor, bummer they want $79.00 for the accessory kit with a motor in it. My dad won't buy it for me right now, later you find out that accessory kit looks like it was discontinued no one has it in stock anymore. (Of course that could have been the classic Nintendo like scheme to drive up the prices with exclusivity and demand). Then a lot of the manual examples depict robots that require other accessory kits to complete, except you can't get the kits.. The kids lose interest quickly. There is no path for the users as they advance to advance to. The GAP from the LEGO Mindstorms to the other robot kits is pretty big. You mainly have to learn electronic, soldering, and more advanced programming skills. Which isn't good for the kids.
Legos only needed a way to bring out 16 I/O pins so we could access and program the RCX to use them. Then adding a few more sensors like Ultrasound, et cetera would have helped a lot too. As it is, you only have the bumper swtich, light sensor, and the rare temperature sensor. Things like the Sharp IR object sensor's would have been really good. Or maybe a break out Lego block to allow hooking up most any sensor to it.
They already had the programming languages in the form of the graphical system, Mindscripts and NQC. They just never left a path for users to advance into. Kids lose interest fast. "Older kids" get frustrated.
Kids needed examples and role models to motivate them. When they see a contest or a group doing neat things with the Mindstorms, they keep their interest and want to do more. The "First" groups were a good start, but they seem to be restricted thus locking out others just getting in. They really needed more Legos Robotics clubs and such. But I just don't see it happening.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Earl,
I totally agree with you here. LEGO never provided for expansion, the RCX was clearly capable, heck all of the sensors you mentioned have been made by someone for the RCX. A simple edge card expansion on the brick with an optional expander would have been simple and fab. But, LEGO seemed to release the Mindstorms, then ignored it. After all that effort they so totally dropped the ball that it landed on their feet, broke all their toes and sent them to the hospital...
I don't think that it was overpriced, I think that it was undersupported!
IMO, DLC
: I feel that that they never provided a way for people to expand it. : You had three motor outputs and three sensor I/O's and that was it. : The kid as a rank beginner, quickly outgrows it, and loses interest. What : else can they do with it? : After you build a few robots (that you can with what you got), what is : there left to do? Thermometer? ah heck I don't have a temperature sensor. : And I can't buy one either. Oooohhh I can build a third arm like thing, ah : heck I need a third motor, bummer they want $79.00 for the accessory kit : with a motor in it. My dad won't buy it for me right now, later you find out : that accessory kit looks like it was discontinued no one has it in stock : anymore. (Of course that could have been the classic Nintendo like scheme to : drive up the prices with exclusivity and demand). : Then a lot of the manual examples depict robots that require other : accessory kits to complete, except you can't get the kits.. : The kids lose interest quickly. : There is no path for the users as they advance to advance to. : The GAP from the LEGO Mindstorms to the other robot kits is pretty big. You : mainly have to learn electronic, soldering, : and more advanced programming skills. Which isn't good for the kids.
: Legos only needed a way to bring out 16 I/O pins so we could access and : program the RCX to use them. : Then adding a few more sensors like Ultrasound, et cetera would have helped : a lot too. As it is, you only have the bumper swtich, light sensor, and the : rare temperature sensor. Things like the Sharp IR object sensor's would have : been really good. : Or maybe a break out Lego block to allow hooking up most any sensor to it.
: They already had the programming languages in the form of the graphical : system, Mindscripts and NQC. : They just never left a path for users to advance into. : Kids lose interest fast. "Older kids" get frustrated.
: Kids needed examples and role models to motivate them. When they see a : contest or a group doing neat things with the Mindstorms, they keep their : interest and want to do more. : The "First" groups were a good start, but they seem to be restricted thus : locking out others just getting in. They really needed more Legos Robotics : clubs and such. But I just don't see it happening.
: :> happyhobit wrote: :> > Let me ask again, what else is there? Where is the competition? :> :> Define "competition." Exactly like Mindstorms=0. Some other robot :> platform=lots. Seeing how Mindstorms sales have dropped off (they peaked :> in 2001), this either means Mindstorms reached saturation, or other :> offerings eventually took over the space Mindstorms once occupied. Or :> both. :> :> I'm not being negative about Mindstorms, but an observer looking at what :> might have been. I pointed out that $200 is a lot of money for many :> people, regardless of what you get for it. You read other messages in :> these threads were people complain Mindstorms was expensive. It was; :> they didn't say it wasn't a good *value*. Two different concepts here. :> :> You might wonder if LEGO could have provided a lower cost entry-level :> product that could have been scaled up to the full RIS kit. They didn't :> do it this way. Instead they offered all sorts of cheaper products that :> were only marginally upgradable. Even after several iterations of the :> RCX, even after seeing the phenomenal interest by more advanced users, :> they didn't provide a simple port on the thing for expanding it. That :> would have added maybe $2. Yet they might have even been able to charge :> $20 more for the RIS, and provided an upgrade path to keep users going. :> :> *IF* Mindstorms goes away, and assuming the toy market comes back to :> life, we'll probably see a directly similar competitor to Mindstorms. :> From whom I don't know. Until then, whoever comes out with the product :> can study the market and determine how to do it better. :> :> -- Gordon :> Author: Constructing Robot Bases, :> Robot Builder's Sourcebook, Robot Builder's Bonanza
--
============================================================================
* Dennis Clark snipped-for-privacy@frii.com www.techtoystoday.com *
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.